After a vicious attack leaves him with severe brain damage, Mark Hogancamp (Steve Carell) has to rebuild his entire life. In order to deal with the trauma he builds Marwen, a fictional World War 2 era Belgian town. Marwen is populated with dolls that represent his close friends and family, and it's a place Mark can retreat to and feel safe. But with the sentencing hearing for his attackers looming, things start to get a bit overwhelming.
Mark Hogancamp's story is a sad one, and yet, it's also inspiring. An artist robbed of his ability to draw, Mark would take pictures of the dolls who live in Marwen, in order to play out the stories he came up with. Many of these stories mirrored what Mark was dealing with in the real world. Having seen the 2010 documentary about Mark's life; "Marwencol", Robert Zemeckis decided it was a story he wanted to tell. But instead of simply telling Mark's story, Zemeckis wanted to bring the world Mark created to life as well.
Known for utilising the latest technology in the making of his movies, Zemeckis turned to motion capture in order to populate Marwen. In doing so, they have opened a window into this little world. And where Mark's two worlds meet, it's like some sort of grown-up 'Toy Story'. But thanks to this, not only do the dolls resemble the actors closely, their performances translate perfectly from the real world into Marwen. With such a fantastic cast you obviously want to get as much out of their performances as you can, but seeing the actors play the dolls as well as the people they represent gives the movie a very genuine feel.
But there is something odd about Welcome to Marwen...it's tone. More specifically the shift between light-hearted and sadness. This is often felt as we switch from Marwen to the real world (and vice versa). It's like the movie doesn't know what it wants to be. However, I think this is reflective of Mark's life. Since the attack Mark has had to relearn pretty much everything. With little or no memory of his life before, the man he is now is different to the one he was. He has had to figure out who he is, and where he fits in in this world. So the disjointed, almost confused tone (to me anyway) feels like Zemeckis' attempts to show audiences how it feels to be Mark Hogancamp.
Welcome to Marwen is a tragic yet wondrous story of a man trying to rebuild his life. The way in which he deals with his PTSD is fascinating. And thanks to some fantastic performances - not to mention some incredible motion capture technology - Mark's story is brought to life with the wonder and respect it deserves.
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